– notes, frequently asked questions and useful links from the archivist and curator of manuscripts at Balliol College, University of Oxford. Opinions expressed are the author's own.

Q&A: Officer cadets at Balliol during WW1

Q: The subject of my research was an Officer Cadet at Balliol during the First World War. What information does the college hold about him? Do you have any photographs?

A: During World War One, Balliol had two distinct populations. Some of the older Fellows and a much reduced student body (further reduced through each academic year as their commissions came up and they went into active service) carried on something of the ordinary academic life of the college. But Balliol’s premises, like those of most Oxford colleges, were largely given over to war work.

Balliol’s Broad Street site hosted thousands of British and Commonwealth officer cadets on short training courses. These men were not members of Balliol or of the University of Oxford; rather, the Army was in effect renting the property, and the college holds no administrative records of their time here. We have no lists of names or any other systematic records about the individual officer cadets or their activities during their few weeks staying in Balliol.

There are, however, a few isolated glimpses into the lives of officer cadets during their brief sojourns in Oxford. In 2005 an Australian bookseller wrote to us with the offer of a photo album created by one JH Brian Armstrong, a member of No 6 Officer Cadet Battalion at Balliol July – October 1917. There are no identifications of individuals in the album.

Balliol also holds copies of two numbers of ‘The Souvenir’, a journal produced by ‘A’ Company No. 6 Officers’ Cadet Battalion, of their time in Oxford: 10 Nov. 1917-26 Feb. 1918 and 5 April 1918 – 23 Oct. 1918.

We do not have copies of any other numbers of ‘The Souvenir.’ If you have copies of this invaluable resource that you are willing to share, please get in touch.

Images of the resources mentioned above and a few other pieces are available online here.

Not connected with Balliol but another publication by and for WW1 soldiers, the well-known trench magazine ‘The Wipers Times’ has recently been edited and published in full as The Wipers Times: The Complete Series of the Famous Wartime Trench Newspaper (Hardcover), Little Books, Jan 2006; ISBN 1-904435-60-2.

JM Winter’s chapter in Vol VIII of The History of the University of Oxford provides a useful survey of Oxford in the First World War.

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